Being an anime fan who happens to be a Black woman can be awkward as hell.
There are always highs and lows, such as the joy I feel when my OTP (one true pairing) officially gets together in my favorite anime, the periods of mourning I experience when my favorite character dies in a show, and the tears and used tissues that appeared when I finally finished the last episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. But, there are a LOT of lows that make me cringe from time to time.
I have loved anime ever since I first watched Sailor Moon. I automatically related to her because despite the fact that she was a thin, pale-skinned, blue-eyed, blonde character, I understood her fears and her infinite love for food and sleep. But this didn’t keep me from feeling hella awkward when I watched an episode where innocent civilians’ skin turned brown––not zombie green or ghostly grey, but BROWN––to symbolize them being possessed by “Dark Power” in Sailor Moon R. As I re-watch the series today, I try to make excuses in my head, saying, “Maybe it’s just a coincidence.”
It’s not a coincidence. It wasn’t a coincidence that Mr. Popo, the “caretaker” of Kami in DragonBall Z, looked awfully similar to racist Black-faced, red-and-thick-lipped caricatures of Black people from back in the day, and neither is the gradual skin-lightening Sailor Pluto has experienced over the years. It’s a slap in the face to see aspects of you, your skin and your fuller lips placed on characters to signify evil, stupidity, or low class, or to realize it’s an aspect that has been “edited out” over time.
As a woman, the slaps come more often, only because Black people don’t appear in anime too often. It’s not uncommon to see posters of your favorite female characters depicted as sexual objects and your favorite male characters drawn in postures of power. It sucks. And it is so awkward.